Revelations, Lawsuit Fuel Dem Fund-Raising Flap
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 16) -- The question of whether campaign fund-raising helped shape White House policy got new life after The Boston Globe reported a possible connection between an Asian fund-raiser and a presidential flip-flop on immigration.
Immigration law now allows naturalized U.S. citizens to bring in their brothers and sisters from outside the U.S. automatically -- up to 65,000 of them a year. In 1995 President Bill Clinton strongly endorsed a package of reforms that included ending that preference for brothers and sisters. The package was, in Clinton's words, "...consistent with my own views...pro-naturalization."
Asian-American groups lobbied strongly to keep their brothers and sisters coming in, however. Then last February, former Democratic National Committee fund-raiser John Huang staged a $1.1 million fund-raiser at the Hay-Adams Hotel, a block from the White House.
In preparation, he wrote a memo to the president that said the top Asia-Pacific American priority was to keep the sibling preference in place. A month later the president withdrew his support for the package that included ending sibling preference, astonishing some observers.
Said Jessica Vaughan, assistant director at the Center for Immigration Studies, "I have no idea whether or not, why the president changed his position, but certainly his flip-flop was a very important factor in the demise of the bill, and the failure of legal immigration reform."
The White House denies any connection. "This was one of the very key legislative fights that happened last year," said spokesman Mike McCurry. "There were enormous fights back and forth over provisions of this bill. To suggest that this somehow had something to do with this work that Huang was doing on outreach to the Asian community is laughable on its face."
In another revelation related to Huang's activities, a Commerce Department spokesman requesting anonymity said that Charles Meissner, then assistant secretary for international economic policy at Commerce, had requested that Huang stay on as a consultant to the department even after he assumed a fund-raising position with the Democratic National Committee. That request, which was overruled, would have allowed Huang to keep his security clearance.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported in today's editions that the Clinton Administration did not conduct background checks on many invitees to DNC fund-raising coffees at the White House, asking only for birthdates and Social Security numbers. As a result, several individuals in trouble with the law weren't screened out.
The Post cited a Florida Democratic Party county chairman, Russ Barakat, who attended an exclusive White House coffee with the president in April 1995, and five days later was arrested by federal marshals for suspected tax evasion. Barakat was ultimately convicted of the charges.
Another individual, Chong Lo, after being convicted in the 1980s on tax fraud, attended an August 1995 coffee. About 11 months later, she was arrested on charges she falsified mortgage applications.
Still on the trail of Democratic fund-raising, Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group that sued the Commerce Department for similar reasons, has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court accusing the president of appointing Charlie Yah Lin Trie to the Commission on United States-Pacific Trade and Investment Policy as a quid pro quo for Trie bringing in more than $600,000 for the Clintons' legal defense fund.
Led by attorney Larry Klayman, Judicial Watch aggressively pursued Huang in connection with the Commerce suit.CNN's Brooks Jackson contributed to this report.
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